Euro 2016: England finish perfect; Slovakia, Russia qualify
England made it a perfect 10 with a beating in the Baltic, but their record-breaking achievement was marred by fighting between the visiting fans and their Lithuanian counterparts.
Goals from Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as an own goal from Lithuania stopper Giedrius Arlauskis, meant Roy Hodgson’s men ended their pristine Euro 2016 qualification campaign with a 3-0 win.
A year on from their wretched World Cup campaign, England will head to France next summer having won all 10 of their qualifiers.
It is the first time England have qualified for a major tournament in this format with a 100 per cent record – and for that Hodgson deserves great praise.
England’s group may have been the easiest in qualifying, but the achievement should not be sniffed at, and once again the likes of Barkley, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana showed glimpses of class against a weak yet stubbornly-well organised Lithuania side.
England’s performances and form will not worry Hodgson, but his bosses at the Football Association will be concerned at the disturbances in Vilnius on Monday night.
The Lithuanians had not sold out the 5,500-seater stadium so tickets went on sale earlier this week and the England fans who traveled to the Baltic nation clearly snapped them up. That meant Lithuanians and English supporters mixed in the same stand and that spelled trouble.
The skirmishes started before kick-off when the England fans who had bought tickets in the home end, clashed with their Lithuania counterparts. The supporters brawled and missiles were thrown before riot police stepped in to break up the fighting and separate the fans.
Russia 2-0 Montenegro
First-half goals from Oleg Kuzmin and Aleksandr Kokorin booked Russia’s place at Euro 2016 with a 2-0 victory over Montenegro in Moscow.
Kuzmin fired a 33rd-minute opener and Kokorin added a penalty four minutes later as the Russians guaranteed second place in Group G behind runaway winners Austria.
Leonid Slutsky’s side had gone into the game knowing victory would be enough to book their final place, but that anything less could see them pipped into a play-off place.
Kuzmin settled the hosts’ nerves just past the half-hour mark when he pounced in the box to slide home a right-footed effort after being set up by Igor Denisov.
And four minutes later Vladimir Rodic was yellow-carded for a foul on Dmitri Kombarov in the box and Kokorin fired the resulting spot-kick past Milan Mijatovic.
Artem Dzyuba saw a fine shot saved by Mijatovic just before half-time and Alan Dzagoev blazed a good chance high and wide two minutes after the break.
Montenegro showed some signs of heaping pressure on their opponents with Fatos Beqiraj shooting wide from long range and Esteban Saveljich heading just wide from a Beqiraj corner.
But Russia increased the pressure as the minutes ticked down, Roman Shirokov drawing a save out of Mijatovic and Denisov shooting wide.
Pavel Mamaev had a better chance 15 minutes from time and the Russians slowed the momentum with a series of late substitutions before Denis Cheryshev missed the chance to make it three in injury time.
Luxembourg 2-4 Slovakia
Slovakia scored their first goals since June as they booked their place at next summer’s European Championships with a 4-2 victory over Luxembourg.
Jan Kozak’s side, who had not found the net since their 2-1 win against Macedonia four months ago, clinched automatic qualification thanks to Marek Hamsik’s brace and further goals from Adam Nemec and Robert Mak.
It was not all plain sailing for the visitors however, with Luxembourg scoring twice in four second-half minutes to give their opponents a scare.
Slovakia began the day level on points with Ukraine, but Mykhaylo Fomenko’s outfit fell to a 1-0 defeat against Euro 2012 champions Spain and will finish Group C in third.
Ukraine 0-1 Spain
Reigning European champions Spain claimed a 1-0 win in Kiev to consign Ukraine to a place in the play-offs.
Spain won an eighth successive match in advancing top of Euro 2016 qualifying Group C as Mario Gaspar’s debut goal proved decisive.
Their only defeat came in their second game to Slovakia, who finished runners-up, with Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine third.
Ukraine began the match level on points with Slovakia, but an inferior head to head record meant they needed a better outcome than their rivals, who were playing in Luxembourg.
It was a challenging task at NSK Olimpiyskyi in Kiev against the 2008 and 2012 European champions and 2010 World Cup winners.
Vicente del Bosque selected an experimental line-up, but La Roja’s reserves were keen to impress their coach.
David de Gea was busy in the early skirmishes, saving from Ruslan Rotan and Artem Kravets before the visitors took the lead.
Thiago Alcantara was played in on the left side of the area and crossed to the back post, where Villarreal’s Gaspar headed in.
Fabregas spurned the opportunity to double the lead and mark his century of appearances with a goal within four minutes.
The playmaker had been fouled by Olexandr Kucher and took the spot-kick himself, only to see Andriy Pyatov make a save to his left.
The former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder has now missed four from four penalties in normal play for Spain.
With Slovakia expected to win in Luxembourg, Ukraine knew they had to chase a victory themselves and the game became more open.
Isco and Thiago tried to manufacture a second for Spain and Mikel San Jose had the ball in the net, only for the effort to be ruled out for an infringement.
Yarmolenko struck the post with a left-footed shot following a team move and De Gea saved from Denys Garmash.
Rotan, Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Yevhen Konoplyanka went close, with De Gea tested, while Nolito and Xabier Etxeita were denied by Pyatov at the other end.
Ukraine were applying pressure, but Thiago missed a chance to settle it with a second late on from substitute Juan Mata’s pass as the visitors prevailed.
Sweden 2-0 Moldova
Sweden upheld their part of the bargain by beating Moldova 2-0 at Friends Arena but they will go into Sunday’s draw for the Euro 2016 play-offs following Russia’s victory over Montenegro.
Erik Hamren’s men went into the final round of Group G fixtures two points behind Russia and relying on a favor from Montenegro, who could not deliver as they fell to a 2-0 defeat in Moscow.
Sweden, who have ultimately paid the price for defeats to Russia and Austria last month, will at least prepare for next month’s play-offs on the back of a second straight victory which came courtesy of goals in either half from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his 59th in international football, and Erkan Zengin.
It was one-way traffic right from the word go in Stockholm, with John Guidetti scuffing a shot against the post in the fourth minute and Ibrahimovic seeing a weak close-rang effort cleared off the line soon after.
Ibrahimovic did not have to wait too much longer for another sight of goal after springing the offside trap and taking a long ball from Mikael Lustig down on his chest before rounding Ilie Cebanu to slot home.
The Paris St Germain striker had an opportunity to add to his 24th-minute opener but headed wide, while Guidetti shot over as Sweden continued to dominate.
The points were effectively in the bag two minutes into the second half when Cebanu raced out of his penalty area to head the ball away from danger, only to see Zengin drop a 25-yard lob into the far corner.
Moldova’s first effort came in the 74th minute as Ion Jardan headed over and they had a last-minute goal ruled out after Igor Armas fouled Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson.
Austria 3-0 Liechtenstein
Unbeaten Austria completed their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 3-0 victory over Liechtenstein, their ninth win from 10 Group G matches.
Marc Janko scored two goals within four second-half minutes after Marko Arnautovic had given the hosts an early lead at Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna.
Austria secured first place in the group with two matches to spare and the sole dropped points came in an opening draw with Sweden.
Since then they had won eight straight and they were soon on course for a ninth in bizarre fashion when Martin Buchel’s attempted clearance ricocheted in off Arnautovic.
The visitors were culpable for the second, too, as Daniel Kaufmann’s poor pass was intercepted by Martin Harnik. He fed Janko, who netted.
Janko soon had another after David Alaba and Arnautovic combined well down the left flank before Janko converted.
San Marino 0-2 Slovenia
Slovenia eventually claimed a 2-0 win over San Marino to book a play-off spot in the European Championship qualifiers after finishing third in Group E.
San Marino, who had claimed just one point from their previous nine matches, went close to adding to their solitary goal of the campaign early on.
Alex Gasperoni hit a shot high and wide before Andy Selva and Adolfo Hirsch were also wasteful in the opening half hour, before Bostjan Cesar opened the scoring for the visitors with a free header in the 55th minute.
Nejc Pecnik doubled the lead with another headed goal 20 minutes later as Slovenia secured a play-off place.
Estonia 0-1 Switzerland
Estonia saw their Euro 2016 qualifying hopes end as they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland at A. Le Coq Arena.
Magnus Pehrsson’s hosts held out slim chances of making the play-offs, needing to defeat the Group E runners-up and for San Marino to see off Slovenia, but both results went against them as a late own goal from Ragnar Klavan ended all hope in Tallinn.
The hosts started brightest and Konstantin Vassiljev forced Switzerland goalkeeper Marwin Hitz into action within the opening five minutes before Granit Xhaka fired over twice for the visitors.
Eren Derdiyok came close to opening the scoring 10 minutes after the break but his overhead kick from the centre of the penalty box was comfortably caught by home stopper Mihkel Aksalu.
But it took until the 90th minute until the deadlock was broken and Augsburg defender Klavan unfortunately sent Breel Embolo’s close-range cross into his own net to hand Switzerland the three points.
Belarus 0-0 Macedonia
Belarus and Macedonia concluded their Euro 2016 qualifying campaigns with a goalless draw which left the former Yugoslav nation bottom of Group C.
Only a win and dropped points from Luxembourg against Slovakia would see Macedonia climb off the foot of the standings, but they were unable to beat Belarus in the Borisov Arena.
Belarus’ 2-0 win against Luxembourg in September ended a five-game wait for a competitive home victory, but they were unable to add a second.
The hosts went closest when Sergei Politevich hit the woodwork in the second half.
Macedonia, meanwhile, are without an away win in 13 competitive games and more than four years, since October 2010 in Andorra.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.